Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Oilers @ Jets: PP Needs to Get Going

When every game is against a divisional opponent, winning in regulation becomes even more important. Not only did Leon Draisaitl score the latest regulation game-winning goal (time on clock) in Oilers history on Sunday night, it also meant the Jets were less than one second away from getting at least one point. Now the Oilers enter tonight with an opportunity to tie Winnipeg in the standings with eight points, and stay within reach of Montreal and Toronto.

— If the Oilers win in regulation they will have eight points, tied with Winnipeg and two back of Montreal, and either two, three or four back of Toronto depending on their result in Calgary. However, a regulation loss puts them four back of Winnipeg and Montreal and potentially six behind Toronto only eight games into the season. This season’s division-only games has added so much importance to every game. It is wonderful, if you enjoy added the added excitement.

— Edmonton has been playing catchup since 15:32 of the first period on opening night. Bo Horvat scored to give Vancouver a lead, and Edmonton has been in chase mode ever since. They needed to win game two to get back to .500, which they did, but then they lost twice to Montreal and have been one or two games below .500 ever since. They’ve yet to win consecutive games, and they need to stop that trend soon, or they will be in chase mode all year. It can be draining always feeling like you need a win just to remain close.

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Connor Hellebuyck started his career 0-4 against the Oilers with a .857Sv% and 4.76 GAA, but since October, 2017 he is 7-1-1 with a .919sv% and 2.43 GAA. The reigning Vezina trophy winner gives the Jets a legitimate chance to win every night, and Edmonton will need a much better start, and a consistent effort throughout if they want to even their record at 4-4. In his 60 starts, dating back to the start of last season, Hellebuyck has allowed three or more goals 28 times and the Jets are 7-18-3 in those games. When he allows two goals or fewer they are 26-4-2.

— Maybe the Oilers can win 2-1, but the stats suggest they need three goals tonight if they want to win. Their powerplay needs to get going. They did score eight and two seconds after a powerplay expired on Sunday, and their breakouts, zone entries and puck movement in the zone looked crisper on Sunday, so maybe they are due for a breakout game. Including last season and the first seven games this season, Edmonton has 40 victories. They’ve scored at least one powerplay goal in 31 of those games. One of the nine wins without a powerplay goal was on Sunday against the Jets. Winning back-to-back with no powerplay goals would be rare.

Sunday’s win was only their third regulation win since the start of 2018/2019 where they allowed three goals, but didn’t score a powerplay goal. It is rare to win when you allow three goals and need four 5×5 goals. The importance of their PP getting going can’t be overstated. They are 0-for-16 with the man advantage in their four losses. If their PP scored in game four against Montreal or game six in Toronto, they could have easily won those games. Their PP is 25th in the NHL at 11.5%. It needs to get going now.

— Will we see Evan Bouchard tonight? Dave Tippett mentioned on Saturday the coaching staff was considering playing seven D-men. Bouchard hasn’t played a game in over a month, so I understand if the coaches have some trepidation to put him in as one of the six defenceman. It might be unnecessary fear, but he is a rookie D-man so I can understand it. The challenge is if he were to take out a D-man it would be one of Ethan Bear, Tyson Barrie or Adam Larsson. Bear has played well since sitting out one game so it clearly won’t be him.

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Barrie has been okay. Larsson has struggled to move the puck, but he is still the most defensive-minded of their blueliners. So Tippett has to weigh the factors of Bouchard’s better puck moving skills to Larsson’s defending. It also means they only have one right shooting D-man on the penalty kill. And when your PP is struggling as much as the Oilers is, the PK becomes even more important.

**Quick update. Patrick Russell, Jujhar Khaira and Caleb Jones are in. Tyler Ennis cleared waiver and he along with Devin Shore will go to the taxi-squad while Slater Koekkoek is the other healthy scratch.***

— The Oilers are coming off an emotional come-from-behind victory and a chance to get back to .500. The Jets will be rested tonight and their aggressive forecheck gave the Oilers fits last season. Would inserting Bouchard tonight as one of the six D-man be the right time? I don’t know. I understand why some would want that, but it might be best to have him as one of the six defenders at home, where Tippett and Jim Playfair can put Bouchard in more favourable matchups. So maybe they ease him in tonight as a seventh D-man.

— In order to play Bouchard the Oilers needed to clear a spot on the 23-man roster, so placing Tyler Ennis on waivers gives them that option. Either Ennis will be claimed by 10 a.m. this morning (I’d be surprised if he is), or he will be eligible to be sent to the taxi-squad at any time over the next 30 days. Once he clears or is claimed, the Oilers could add Bouchard to the active roster.

— Today is Wayne Gretzky’s 60th birthday. If you weren’t lucky enough to watch him, I truly hope you haven’t fallen for any of the ridiculous comments claiming he wasn’t dominant or that he only scored because he played in the 80s. Here are some numbers to debunk that myth.

In his first 10 seasons (1979/1980 to 1988/1989) Gretzky scored 637-1200-1,837. He averaged 2.37 points/game.

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The other top-five scorers in those 10 years:
Peter Stastny: 356-630-986 and 1.46 pts/game.
Marcel Dionne: 404-356-980 and 1.34 pts/game.
Jari Kurri: 441-509-950 and 1.41 pts/game.
Denis Savard: 324-609-933 and 1.38 pts/game

Gretzky averaged almost one point/game more than the next top scorers, who are all Hall of Fame players. He dominated like no other.

— Gretzky scored 1,979 points in his first 11 seasons. He played 847 games. Jaromir Jagr is second all-time in NHL scoring with 1,921 points. He played 1,733 games.

—- In Gretzky’s second last season, 1998, and his 19th season, he finished tied for third in scoring with Pavel Bure at 90 points. Jagr, in his eighth season and prime of his career, led the league with 102 points.

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